Weeks After Dallas PD First Began Using Tourniquets, One Saves a Cop's Life

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USDepartmentofDefense.jpg
The military knows: tourniquets work.
Dallas police officer Joshua Burns is alive right now in part because he was wearing a bulletproof vest, because alleged shooter Rakeem Perkins didn't hit his head, because he was rushed to Baylor Medical Center, where trauma doctors tended the wounds on leg and shoulder.

He's also alive because, when he went down at a Northeast Dallas apartment complex on Sunday, his fellow officers applied a tourniquet to help stop the bleeding.

That seems like it should be standard practice for cops, often the first to scenes of bloodshed and mayhem, but it hasn't been. It was only 10 weeks ago that Dallas PD handed out and trained officers to use 1,500 "Downed Officer Kits," which contain "cutting-edge hemorrhage control equipment," according to DPD's brag on Facebook today.

There may be some whiz-bang stuff in the kits, but a tourniquet isn't exactly cutting-edge technology. But it's only recently that law enforcement agencies have begun using them on a broad scale. Here's a New York Times piece from last month explaining the trend:

The tourniquet's resurgence results in part from lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq. Only 2 percent of soldiers with severe bleeding in those countries died compared with 7 percent in Vietnam in part because tourniquets were in widespread use and the injured were quickly transported to doctors.

In the past year, civilian trauma doctors, realizing that emergency personnel in much of the country can transport the wounded to a trauma center in less than 30 minutes, have followed the lead of the military. The success of the rapid medical response to the Boston Marathon bombings, where bystanders used their clothes as tourniquets, has bolstered their efforts.

"As we began to take a hard look at how to respond to these types of incidents, what became clear was that the sooner you can stop victims from bleeding, the higher likelihood you will have for reducing fatalities," said John Cohen, a senior counterterrorism official at the Department of Homeland Security and a member of a committee appointed by President Obama to study gun violence after the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. "And the things that make the biggest difference in stopping bleeding are tourniquets and other bandages."

The tourniquet's ability to save lives has always been there. It was fear of tissue damage and, ultimately, amputation, that caused it to fall into disfavor. But that only occurs when a tourniquet is left in place for several hours -- way, way longer than it would take first responders in a big city to get someone to a hospital.

And to think, all it took to realize that was two wars and a horrific terrorist attack.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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15 comments
TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Anyone that has ever watched Gunsmoke or Bonanza knows that a tourniquet is the first thing you do for a gunshot wound. - right before you find a couple of sturdy poles to use with your saddle-blanket to make a litter so you can drag the victim over a long, bumpy trail to the town dentist to extract the bullet.

And whiskey, of course. Can't remove a bullet without whiskey - might even want to give the patient a belt or two before you start digging around for that slug.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

This is seriously shit you learn in Boy Scouts. I'm talking first aid merit badge. How are officers not trained for it?

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Actually, if they are CATs (and some google searches suggest that they are) then they ARE actually a bit high tech.  The CAT incorporates the things that we've learned about TQs the hard way -- that improvised ones don't work because they aren't strong enough to put REAL pressure on, and the windlasses suck.  The CAT has an integrated windlass and stop, and is a solid ribbon of nylon webbing, like a tow cable (which is essentially what it is.)


Everyone should have a CAT or something similar around.  Everyone.  Even if you aren't a gun person, you can still use a CAT (and an Israeli bandage and some hemostat gauze) to save someone's life if they get shot, or in a car wreck, so slip and fall through a glass door, or chop part of their foot off with a lawnmower, etc etc etc.


(FWIW, I keep a blow-out kit like this in the trunk of my car and two more at the house at all times.  I'm more likely to have first aid on me than a gun, and I'm pretty likely to have the gun.  It's just plain irresponsible to have the gun and not the first aid to treat its wounds.)

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Tourniquets have been around for a long long time.  Knowing how to use them is extremely important.  In the event of massive trauma to a limb, a tourniquet can make the difference between life and death for the victim.


As far as a "special kit" is concerned, a potential tourniquet is always nearby ... a belt ... shoelaces ... a shirtsleeve ....

ruddski
ruddski

Maybe union deal? Cops shoot, paramedics/EMTs stop bleeding, neither can do the others job.

Honestly though, it makes little sense

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

(Also, if you are going to buy one, get it from someplace reputable -- I recommend North American Rescue.  There are a ton of cheap fakes from China that are being sold on Amazon and especially ebay that are worse than nothing, because you think you have a real emergency item and it will flat break when you try to use it.)

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul  Not really.  Improvised tourniquets used in Iraq and Afghanistan failed so often as to be a waste of time that could have been used for direct pressure.  Get a REAL combat TQ (like a CAT or a SOF-T) and keep it around.  

ruddski
ruddski

Even a bra will work.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

But how often did they work?

Sure a proper aid kit is preferable. But you work with what you've got. Even if it's botched it is better than simply letting someone bleed.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@P1Gunter  

I agree that a purpose made tourniquet is better than a scrounged one.

Perhaps I should add one to the 1st aid kit in my car to go along with the 40BC fire extinguisher.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

That's exactly the point I was trying to make. It's not optimal, but in a pinch it is what you do.

Above I mentioned the BSA and that we were trained in this about age 12. I will likely never use it, but much like making a wet pair of jeans into a life jacket it is a nice skill to have.

I'd prefer DPD give these guys kits. But if they're not going to, at least teach them what they teach 12 year old boy scouts.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@P1Gunter  25-40% success rate, depending on how wide it was (wider with a windlass worked up to 40% of the time.  Without a windlass it's pretty much 0% effective).  At that point, enough time and effort has been wasted trying to make the improvised widget work that they would have been better off just keeping direct pressure on the wound.


Compare that to 80%(CAT)-92%(EMT, the hospital-type) success rates for the real thing, and there's no comparison.

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